We are all Treaty people: Support Mikmaq fishers
We are proceeding with other legal action to fight for the rights of all Mi’kmaq People in Newfoundland. Gerri Sharpe is a grandmother who spends a lot of her extra time beading, crafting and sewing. She has shifted her fundraising efforts to help the Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia. Instead, she has donated one of her very first pieces of quillwork to be raffled off in support of the fishermen. The Mi’kmaw crafter is also from Listuguj, and since her community is outside of the Atlantic bubble, Nova Scotia‘s COVID-19 regulations restricting access to the province mean she cannot go to where the fishery is happening.
Vehicle torched, lobster pounds storing Mi’kmaw catches trashed during night of unrest in N.S. Unless otherwise noted, all images and media are owned by the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre.
In the pre-contact world of Mi’gma’gi, oral and archeological history tells of seasonally patterned habitation and resource harvesting — spring and summer spent on the coast, fall and winter inland. The people of Mi’gma’gi relied on the variety of resources available, using everything from shellfish to sea mammals to land mammals small and large for nutrition, clothing, dwellings and tools. They also used the bountiful timber of the region to construct canoes, snowshoes and shelters, usually in combination with animal skins and sinews. The Mi’kmaq relied wholly on their surroundings for survival, and thus developed strong reverence for the environment that sustained them. In 2003, Minister Andy Scott was presented with a report recommending a First Nations band without any reserved land to represent the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland. An Agreement-in-principle was reached in 2006, which the FNI accepted in 2007.
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In the early 1990s, Mi’kmaq peoples from across Mi’gma’gi began celebrating Treaty Day by incorporating traditional Mi’kmaq customs like drumming and the burning of sacred herbs into Catholic Mass. However, traditional Mi’kmaq spirituality is still practised today, with a concerted effort on the part of Mi’kmaq people to protect and promote their religious beliefs and customs. The Concordat of 1610 — a formal agreement between the Mi’kmaq and the Vatican marked by the creation of a treaty wampum — combined trade, treaty and religion in relations between the Mi’kmaq and the French.
New Brunswick’s nine nations included 8,210 registered people, while the two nations in each of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labradorhad populations of 1,294 and 26,966, respectively. Before 2011, the population of registered Mi’kmaq people in Newfoundland and Labrador was significantly lower; in that year, the federal government recognized the status of more than 23,000 Mi’kmaq people, who formed the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation. The blatant racism was further shown online, with Facebook user Charles Chamberlain arguing that residential schools, a concrete example of cultural genocide, should still be occurring today. He then called Indigenous folks “demon spawns that are always getting into trouble with the law” a disgusting example of racist sentiments. This racism has also led to outright violence, with local fishermen protesting by shooting flares at boats, cutting nets, and blocking Mi’kmaq boats into the harbour.
The complicated relationship between Mi’kmaq and the Catholic church
At the time of the launch of the Potlotek fishery, Membertou was also planning on launching their own fishery, following a similar plan. After the launch of this fishery, DFO officers continued to seize Mi’kmaw traps. DFO reported that as of December 2019, there were 979 commercial lobster licenses in LFA 34.
- Due to their proximity to the Atlantic, the Mi’kmaq were among the first peoples in North America to interact with European explorers, fishermen and traders.
- In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, there are canoe routes that have been used for thousands of years by indigenous people travelling from the Bay of Fundy to the Atlantic ocean.
- The 1876 Indian Act disrupted that authority, by requiring First Nations to establish representative elected governments along the Canadian model, and attempting to limit the Council’s role to spiritual guidance.
- The Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq offers several health-related services and programs, aimed at creating and maintaining a healthy and vibrant Mi’kmaq nation.
- The Grand Council was composed of Keptinaq ("captains" in English), who were the district chiefs.
- Ever since 1 October 1986, Treaty Dayin Nova Scotia and some other parts of Atlantic Canada has commemorated the signing and significance of the Peace and Friendship Treaties.
These regulations prevent Mi’kmaw lobster fishers from selling their lobster to non-Mi’kmaq. Mi’kmaw fishers say that this does not align with the Marshall decision. In 2019, the government of the Listuguj First Nation in the Bay of Chaleur developed their own self-regulated lobster fisheries management plan and opened their own lobster fishery in the fall of 2020. Under the existing Fish Buyers’ Licensing Regulations the self-regulated Listuguj fisheries can harvest, but can only use the lobster for "food, social and ceremonial purposes".
This case involved the Treaty right to fish which started when Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaw man from Membertou First Nation in Sydney Nova Scotia, was arrested in 1993. He was arrested for catching and selling eel without a licence, with an “illegal” net, and during an off-season. He was then wrongfully charged under the federal Fisheries Act and the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations and was found guilty on all three counts in the eyes of the colonial judicial system. On September 17, Sipekne’katik launched a "moderate livelihood fishery" with a ceremony at the Saulnierville wharf, the first lobster fishery regulated by Miꞌkmaq in Nova Scotia.
She is also a Certified First Nation Health Manager from the National First Nations Health Managers Association. Roseanne has a Bachelor’s degree from Carleton University, and is certified in Reality Therapy and Conflict Resolution, and is an Indigenous Justice Circle Keeper. In her capacity, she gladly serves the interest of PEI First Nations as co-chair of the Health Policy Planning Forum, which is the Health Tripartite here in PEI. Allan has been a champion for Aboriginal education within Prince Edward Island and may be contacted at the Summerside office of the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI.